Let’s forget for a moment the fact that the men who coach the Super Bowl participants are brothers.
You did know the 49ers’ Jim Harbaugh and the Ravens’ John Harbaugh are brothers, right? You may have heard that once or twice or 10,000 times by now and you’ll only hear it 10 million more by the time the game is finally played on Feb. 3. No doubt you’re looking forward to hours of pregame time being devoted to hearing father Jack, also a coach, talk about the kids.
So, yeah, let’s not forget the Harbaughs are brothers because that’s impossible. You type one name into Google and then the other, you even get a line that says, “Jim Harbaugh is John Harbaugh’s brother.”
Let’s put it aside for a moment and consider something else about John and the younger-by-exactly-15-months Jim: They’re very rapidly moving up the list of active coaches in terms of quality. Go ahead and scribble a top five and see if both don’t show up.
Granted, it’s not that hard to move up such a list fairly quickly. But these two have done it with a bullet, as they say in the music industry, and there’s no reason to think they’ll be backsliding any time soon.
Go around the NFL position by position, even on the offensive line, and you can come up with a strong list of names of players who are at or close to superstar status. Which is fine. The game should be about the players more than the coaches.
Coaching in the NFL is usually a short-term gig. A quarter of the league’s teams changed coaches after the just-completed season. Considering that, coming up with a list of active coaches who are in the superstar realm is difficult. At least it is not very time consuming.
The Patriots’ Bill Belichick has to be on the list. Sunny disposition aside, the man has built a pretty strong program and clearly heads the class.
The Giants’ Tom Coughlin may be walking that line, another good season or two away from being in the club. Maybe he’s already there, given that he’s won two recent Super Bowls. We can include Coughlin, just so Happy Bill has some company.
Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin could get there. If you have a very powerful rear view mirror, you can still see some of the glory that used to be the Redskins’ Mike Shanahan. If he hasn’t ruined RG3’s knee, maybe he will recapture some of the glory and become a no-doubter on this list.
The Harbaughs have to be mentioned in the next breath.
Jim, 49, only has two years on his NFL resume. They’ve been quite the two years. He took over a 49ers team that hadn’t had a winning season since 2002. In his two regular seasons, San Francisco has gone 24-7-1. No surprise to those who knew Harbaugh when he was at Stanford. He won 29 games in four years there, including 12 his final season. Stanford won 16 games in five seasons before he arrived.
His work at Stanford came after he went 29-6 in three seasons at San Diego.